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Another community hospital closure in WV

During a recent appearance on Talkline, West Virginia Hospital Association President and CEO Joe Letnaunchyn predicted more hospital closings were ahead, and he was right.

Just days after that interview, Fairmont Regional Medical Center notified its employees that it’s closing within weeks. The hospital is owned by the same company—California-based Alecto Healthcare—which just a few months ago shut down the Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling and East Ohio Regional Hospital in Martins Ferry, Ohio.

Unfortunately, community hospital closures are becoming increasingly common. The Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research reports that 166 rural hospitals in the country have closed since 2005. And the pace is picking up. Nineteen closed last year, the most of any year since 2005.

Fairmont may not be the last in West Virginia. “There are others on the bubble,” Letnaunchyn told me before he knew of Fairmont’s closing. “I keep hearing there is going to be some news coming out of these hospitals.”

The American Hospital Association (AHA) issued a report last year on the challenges facing hospitals in rural communities.

“Some of these challenges—such as low patient volume and a heavy reliance on public payer programs—have persisted for many years,” the report found, “while others—such as increased regulatory burden and shifts from inpatient to outpatient care—are more recent.”

As a result, rural hospitals often must make difficult decisions about which services to provide and whether to fill vacant positions or even layoff workers. When they run out of options, the result is closure.

Operating a hospital in West Virginia is particularly difficult because of a combination of these problems.  We are a poor, rural state with an older population, a serious drug problem and a higher percentage of government payers whose reimbursements do not cover the full cost of treatment.

The AHA says “Without resource support (read: higher reimbursements) and targeted policies for rural communities, many hospitals in these areas will not be able to effectively tackle new or existing challenges.”

For Fairmont residents, hospital care and healthcare jobs can be found a half hour north or south on I-79 in either Morgantown or Clarksburg, and it appears West Virginia is going through a painful period of hospital closure and consolidation.  However, the shuttering of a hospital is a tragedy for a community.

Hospitals are critical anchors in communities, providing essential healthcare and good jobs.  Fairmont Regional Medical Center—formerly known as Fairmont General—has been a cornerstone of Fairmont and Marion County for over a century.

It’s imminent closure marks not only the end of an era, but also yet another graphic example of the challenges facing the healthcare delivery system in West Virginia and all rural America.

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Cabell County man pleads guilty to taking funds from church

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Cabell County man entered a guilty plea on Tuesday after taking thousands of dollars from an Ona church.

Robert Dale Adkins, 75, pleaded guilty to mail fraud on Tuesday.

Between at least 2012 until December 2018, Adkins served as the church’s treasurer and had access to the church’s checking account. He also had the authority to sign checks on behalf of the church.

According to U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart, Adkins wrote checks to personal creditors without the knowledge or approval of church leaders. Adkins wrote $487,488.92 worth of checks.

He faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, as well as restitution to the church. His sentencing date is May 18.

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West Virginia breaks out the bats in home-opening win over Canisius

GRANVILLE, W.Va. — West Virginia dodged the ran and opened its home schedule with a bang, scoring 15 runs on 17 hits in a 15-8 win over Canisius at Monongalia County Ballpark.

Seven Mountaineers registered an RBI in the squad’s home-opening triumph, while five recorded multiple hits. WVU scored runs in five innings, including six in the bottom of the sixth.

Freshman catcher/infielder Matt McCormick led the way, going 4-of-6 with a towering home run and three RBIs, while redshirt senior outfielder Braden Zarbnisky finished 3-for-4 with three runs scored, two stolen bases and two RBIs.

“Zarb is just a great college player – both sides of the baseball,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said. “He’s super valuable, and he never gets rattled. He’s been around for five years now and knows the ropes pretty well. And having Matt McCormick start to swing the bat well is really going to help us down the stretch.”

Additionally, sophomore infielder/outfielder Austin Davis tallied three hits, including a triple, for WVU (3-1), while senior infielder Kevin Brophy and junior infielder Tyler Doanes each had two.

Freshman right-handed pitcher Tim Wynia earned the win in his WVU debut. The Plano, Texas, native came out of the bullpen to collect two strikeouts in the top of the fifth.

Freshman right-handed pitcher Skylar Gonzalez was also effective out of the bullpen, allowing no runs or hits in 3 2/3 innings of work. He also struck out five in his collegiate debut.

Tuesday marked the earliest home opener in program history. It also was just the team’s second February home game ever.

Six of WVU’s seven pitchers were newcomers, and five of them – Gonzalez, freshman right-hander Carter Lyles, Wynia, freshman right-hander Jacob Watters and Short – all made their collegiate debuts on Tuesday.

Next up, West Virginia travels to Myrtle Beach, S.C., for the Brittain Resorts Invitational, from Feb. 21-24.

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Britt Sherman promoted to Martinsburg head football coach

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Longtime assistant Britt Sherman has been promoted to Martinsburg’s head football coach. His appointment became official at Tuesday’s Berkeley County Board of Education meeting.

Sherman has previously served as the Bulldogs’ offensive coordinator, special teams coordinator and junior varsity head coach. Martinsburg currently owns the nation’s second-longest winning streak at 56 games and the Bulldogs have won four consecutive Class AAA state championships.

Sherman replaces Dave Walker, who resigned to become the head coach at Concord University in December. Walker led the Bulldogs to eight state titles in a span of ten years and he won 53 career playoff games.

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Senate voting Wednesday on greyhound fund bill

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Senate will vote Wednesday on a measure eliminating funding for the West Virginia Greyhound Breeding Development Fund with the opportunity to amend the bill.

Legislators read Senate Bill 285 for a second time on Tuesday after laying the measure over twice.

Under the bill, funding dedicated to the account would be directed to the State Excess Lottery Revenue Fund. The bill would also create a tax credit for any West Virginian that adopts a greyhound racing dog.

As a result of the end of the dog racing fund, $17.4 million would go into the lottery account.

The Mardi Gras Casino & Resort in Cross Lanes and Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack are the only businesses in West Virginia that offer greyhound racing.

DougCoulter/Wikimedia

Lara Trump

A member of President Donald Trump’s family is backing the bill; Lara Trump, the president’s daughter-in-law, spoke in favor of eliminating greyhound racing on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

“Greyhound racing is so archaic and really a barbaric practice at this point,” she said.

During the 2018 election cycle, Trump campaigned for banning greyhound racing in Florida. Voters approved the amendment, but greyhound breeders and kennel owners are suing the state to have the amendment overturned.

Trump said interest in greyhound racing is declining, and there is a certain point when the public has to question if such racing is humane.

“Are we supporting a sport that is barbaric and really gruesome and kills animals? It’s not right what happens to these dogs, and we’ve seen so much excitement in Florida, quite frankly, since this passed,” she said. “We’re making sure that all the dogs get homes, it gets phased out in the proper way, and we’d love to see the same thing happen in West Virginia.”

Gov. Jim Justice vetoed a bill in 2017 that would have eliminated the greyhound racing fund.

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Behind new starters, West Virginia finishes strong to snap skid

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Bob Huggins inserted two new starters into West Virginia’s lineup against Oklahoma State, but Tuesday night’s game was more about how the Mountaineers finished.

No. 17 West Virginia dominated the second half, holding the Cowboys (13-13, 3-10 Big 12) to 14 points for a 65-47 win that snapped a three-game losing streak.

The final play of the first half ended up setting the tone for the 20 minutes that followed.

Jermaine Haley drained a three from the corner at the buzzer, with the ball making a full rotation around the rim before popping out, bouncing off the back iron and rolling back through the net.

“I thought it would go straight in. I didn’t think it was going to roll in like that,” Haley said. “The basketball gods were with me. Put the ball in the hoop.”

The miraculous make capped off an unlikely trip down the floor.

The Mountaineers got the ball underneath their own hoop with 4 seconds left. Oklahoma State’s defense deflected it out of bounds three times on the ensuing possession, with West Virginia’s final inbounds play coming in front of the Cowboys’ bench with 1 second remaining.

“I could lie and say that was something we worked on,” Huggins said. “I said, ‘Throw the damn thing in.'”

West Virginia still trailed 33-28 after Haley’s buzzer-beater, but the tone of the game changed. After Oklahoma State shot 62 percent from the field in the first half, just staying within striking distance felt like an accomplishment.

“It was huge,” said fellow guard Miles McBride. “He loves those type of threes. He’ll pass up a wide-open three for a hand-in-the-face fadeaway kicking the leg out yelling ‘Kobe!’

“He’s our leader. We know we can trust him to take shots like that.”

The Mountaineers blew out of the gates after halftime, opening with a 20-4 run that left the Cowboys looked dazed and confused. Oklahoma State was just 17 percent from the field (5 of 30) in the second half.

“I thought we did a better job of covering them up,” Huggins said. “They’re really good shooters, and we were giving them step-in shots, and we were giving them a lot of pitch stuff off of penetration. We didn’t do a very good job [in the first half].”

Ben Queen/USA TODAY Sports

West Virginia Mountaineers guard Taz Sherman (12) celebrates after a play during the second half against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at WVU Coliseum.

Huggins’ new starting lineup experiment netted mixed results.

The Mountaineers started small, swapping out power forward Derek Culver for a three-guard look featuring Taz Sherman, Miles McBride and Emmitt Matthews. Huggins tweaked the look at halftime, inserting Culver for Matthews and moving Haley from forward to guard.

“We started small and that probably wasn’t the right thing to do in hindsight,” Huggins said. “But we were struggling so bad to score while playing that bigger lineup.

“But I thought the big lineup in the second half really saved us. Derek and Oscar and Gabe [Osabuohien] all were good defensively. Moving Jermaine to out guarding a guard, he did a great job of shutting off their penetration.”

“They went back to a bigger lineup because we were going inside [in the first half],” said Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton. “I thought they were much more active. A lot of credit goes to their defense.”

Game Highlights

McBride rebounded from a 1-for-6 start from the field, tying Sean McNeil with a team-high 11 points. Haley and Sherman finished with nine apiece.

Neither Culver nor Oscar Tshiebwe reached double figures in scoring, but both of them did so in rebounds. Tshiebwe hauled in 15 boards and Culver added 10. West Virginia outrebounded Oklahoma State 42-29.

By the numbers

Oklahoma State forward Cameron McGriff led all scorers with 17 points, 13 of which came in the first half. McGriff was 6 of 7 from the field in the first half and 2 of 7 in the second… Huggins tied North Carolina legend Dean Smith for sixth on the NCAA’s all-time wins list with 879.

Next up

The Mountaineers hit the road for back-to-back games, beginning with Saturday’s visit to TCU. The Horned Frogs (14-11, 5-7) recently snapped a six-game losing streak.

Bob Huggins postgame press conference

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Balanced scoring, strong finish lead Patriots past South Charleston, 68-57
South Charleston’s Quay Sutton pushes the pace against Parkersburg South.

 

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Having seen his team outscored 22-6 over the first 5:40 of the second half, Parkersburg South head coach Brett Rector was looking for a strong response from the Patriots after a nine-point halftime lead turned into a 46-39 deficit against South Charleston.

Rector got just what he was looking for as Parkersburg South executed at a high level over the final 10 minutes and used a balanced scoring effort to pull away from the Black Eagles for a 68-57 win.

“I talk to our guys a lot about being resilient and bouncing back,” Rector said. “Things did not go great for us at the beginning (of the second half), but our guys really stepped up late. I’m proud of the way we bounced back and then we closed out the game as well. That’s something we haven’t been great at. This is our fourth win in a row and hopefully we’re getting better at the right time.”

After South Charleston (10-9) got six straight points from Quay Sutton for a 46-39 lead with 2:20 to play in the third quarter, the Patriots put together their best stretch of the night.

Nathan Currey’s three-pointer made it a four-point game and Zach Seese made 3-of-4 free throws to pull Parkersburg South (13-6) to within one. Cam Marks then beat the third-quarter buzzer with a triple to send the Patriots into the fourth leading 48-46 — and they’d never trail again.

Despite D.J. Johnson tying the game at 48 with a layup to start the fourth, Marks responded with a triple and Currey scored inside to put the Patriots up five.

The Black Eagles got to within three on two more occasions — the latter of which came on Sutton’s two free throws with 4:51 to play.

Seese answered with consecutive buckets in the paint to up the Patriots’ lead to 59-52 and counteted a Johnon follow-up with another bucket from close range.

Parkersburg South stayed on top by at least seven the rest of the way.

“We wanted to win the third quarter to give ourselves a chance going into the fourth,” SC head coach Josh Daniel said. “Well we came out on an 11-0 run and eventually go up seven. After that, I felt like they scored seriously on every possession. We went zone, man-to-man and pressed a little bit. We just broke down defensively and that was the name of the game.”

Parkersburg South held a 12-8 lead through one quarter and it was 22-19 after South Charleston’s Bradley Jones made his second three-pointer of the second quarter. The Patriots’ Alex Woolard and Black Eagles’ Darius Dawson then traded triples to keep it a three-point lead for PSHS with 2:25 left in the opening half.

The Patriots put together an important and impressive stretch to close the opening half, getting three points from Dylan Day, a bucket from Malaki Sylvia and a buzzer-beating three-pointer from Woolard to close on an 8-2 run for a 33-24 advantage at the break.

Woolard scored all 11 of his points in the opening half to help the Patriots hold the nine-point lead.

“On the back of our door it says, ‘Sometimes you, sometimes me, always us.’ That’s kind of our mindset,” Rector said. “This guy might get 20 one night and he might not the next night. And you have to be OK with that.”

But SCHS scored the first 11 points after halftime to go on top 35-33 — its first lead since 13-12 in the early stages of the second. Sutton scored six of those 11 points during the surge and totaled 12 of his game-high 23 in the period.

Seese and Currey scored 14 points apiece to pace Parkersburg South, while Woolard and Marks added 11 and 10 points, respectively.

“We had some guys come off the bench and give us great minutes,” Rector said. “Zach Seese was really good.”

Johnson contributed 11 points in the loss, while Dawson and Jones scored nine and eight, respectively.

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Marion County official among those shocked following hospital closure news

FAIRMONT, W.Va. — One Marion County official is among those expressing shock following the announcement Tuesday about Fairmont Regional Medical Center’s upcoming closure.

Alecto Healthcare Systems informed 600 facility employees the hospital will close within 60 days after the parent company failed to find a buyer.

Marion County Commissioner Randy Elliott described the news as a devastating blow to the community.

“We need the emergency room. I’m from the north part of the county, and it takes 20 minutes to Fairmont,” he said. “I have to go twice the distance to get to Morgantown or Clarksburg. It’s not fair. It’s not right for anyone in Marion County.”

Elliott added the closure will force first responders to make changes.

“They’re going to have to go all the way to Clarksburg or to Morgantown to take citizens that are sick, having a heart attack or involved in an accident,” he said. “Time means lives, and someone will die because of this.”

Gov. Jim Justice issued a statement Tuesday night he and Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, will meet with hospital leaders on Thursday to determine the most appropriate path.

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Pairings set for girls basketball sectional tournaments

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Pairings and schedules are set for girls high school basketball sectional tournaments around the state. Competition begins Friday, February 21st and continue through Saturday, February 29th.

(List is not yet complete and will be updated)

Class AAA Region I, Section 1

Wednesday, Feb. 26

No. 3 Brooke at No. 2 John Marshall, 7 p.m.

Friday, Feb. 28

Brooke/John Marshall winner at No. 1 Wheeling Park, 7 p.m.

Class AAA Region 1, Section 2

Tuesday, Feb. 25

No. 4 Buckhannon-Upshur at No. 1 University, 7 p.m.

No. 3 Preston at No. 2 Morgantown, 7 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 27

Championship at highest seed

 

Class AAA Region II, Section 1

No. 4 Hedgesville vs. No. 1 Martinsburg

No. 3 Spring Mills vs. No. 2 Musselman

Class AAA Region II, Section 2

No. 3 Washington vs. No. 2 Hamsphire

Washington/Hampshire winner vs. No. 1 Jefferson

 

Class AAA Region III, Section 1

No. 4 St. Albans at No. 1 George Washington

No. 3 Capital at No. 2 South Charleston

Class AAA Region III, Section 2

Wednesday, Feb. 26

No. 4 Riverside at No. 1 Greenbrier East

No. 3 Princeton at No. 2 Woodrow Wilson

Friday, Feb. 28

Championship at highest seeded team

 

Class AAA Region IV, Section 1

Wednesday, Feb. 26

No. 3 Ripley at No. 2 Parkersburg South

Friday, Feb. 28

Ripley/Parkersburg South winner at No. 1 Parkersburg

Class AAA Region IV, Section 2

All games at Hurricane

Wednesday, Feb. 26

No. 1 Cabell Midland vs. No. 4 Hurricane

No. 2 Huntington vs. No. 3 Spring Valley

Friday, Feb. 28

Championship

 

Class AA Region I, Section 1

Monday, Feb. 24

No. 6 Berkeley Springs at No. 3 Grafton

No. 5 Philip Barbour at No. 4 Keyser

Wednesday, Feb. 26

Berkeley Springs/Grafton winner at No. 2 Petersburg

Philip Barbour/Keyser winner at No. 1 Frankfort

Friday, Feb. 28

Championship at highest seed

Class AA Region I, Section 2

Saturday, Feb. 22

No. 5 Oak Glen at No. 4 Weir, 1 p.m.

Tuesday, Feb. 25

Oak Glen/Weir winner at No. 1 North Marion, 7 p.m.

No. 3 East Fairmont at No. 2 Fairmont Senior, 7 p.m.

Friday, Feb. 28

Championship at highest seed, 7 p.m.

 

Class AA Region II, Section 1

Saturday, Feb. 22

No. 5 Liberty at No. 4 Robert C. Byrd, 1 p.m.

Tuesday, Feb. 25

Liberty/Robert C. Byrd winner at No. 1 Lincoln, 7 p.m.

No. 3 Elkins at No. 2 Bridgeport, 7 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 27

Championship at highest seed, 7 p.m.

Class AA Region II, Section 2

Saturday, Feb. 22

No. 6 Clay County at No. 3 Herbert Hoover

No. 5 Roane County at No. 4 Nicholas County

Tuesday, Feb. 25

Clay County/Herbert Hoover winner at No. 2 Braxton County

Roane County/Nicholas County winner at No. 1 Lewis County

Friday, Feb. 28

Championship game at highest seed

 

Class AA Region III, Section 1

All Games at Wyoming East

Mon, Feb. 24

No. 2 Westside vs. No. 3 Oak Hill, 6 p.m.

No. 1 Wyoming East vs. No. 4 Independence, 8 p.m.

Wed, Feb. 26

Championship game, 7 p.m.

Class AA Region III, Section 2

Sat, Feb. 22

No. 5 Shady Spring at No. 4 James Monroe, 4 p.m.

Tuesday, Feb. 25

at Princeton

No. 3 River View vs. No. 2 Bluefield, 5:30 p.m.

Shady Spring/James Monroe winner vs. No. 1 PikeView, 7:30 p.m.

Friday, Feb. 28

at Princeton

Championship, 7 p.m.

 

Class AA Region IV, Section 1

No. 6 Poca vs. No. 3 Nitro

No. 5 Point Pleasant vs. No. 4 Sissonville

Poca/Nitro winner vs. No. 2 Wayne

Point Pleasant/Sissonville winner vs. No. 1 Winfield

Class AA Region IV, Section 2

All games at Chapmanville

Saturday, Feb. 22

No. 4 Logan vs. No. 5 Scott, 6 p.m.

No. 6 Man vs. No. 3 Lincoln County, 7:30 p.m. (approx.)

Tuesday, Feb. 25

Logan/Scott winner at No. 1 Chapmanville, 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Feb. 26

Man/Lincoln County winner vs. No. 2 Mingo Central

Saturday, Feb. 28

Championship

 

Class A, Region I, Section 1

Friday, Feb. 21

No. 5 Hundred at No. 4 Valley Wetzel, 7 p.m.

Tuesday, Feb. 25

at John Marshall High School

No. 3 Madonna vs. No. 2 Cameron, 6 p.m.

Hundred/Valley Wetzel winner vs. No. 1 Wheeling Central Catholic, 7:30 p.m.

Friday, Feb. 28

at John Marshall High School

Championship, 7 p.m.

Class A, Region 1, Section 2

No. 5 Paden City vs. No. 4 Tyler Consolidated

Wednesday, Feb. 26

No. 3 Magnolia vs. No. 2 Ritchie County

Paden City/Tyler Consolidated winner vs. No. 1 St. Marys

Friday, Feb. 28

Championship at highest remaining seed

 

Class A, Region 2, Section 1

Saturday, Feb. 22

No. 6 South Harrison at No. 3 Notre Dame, 1 p.m.

No. 7 Tygarts Valley at No. 2 Doddridge County, 7 p.m.

No. 5 Trinity at No. 4 Clay-Battelle, 7 p.m.

Tuesday, Feb. 25

Trinity/Clay-Battelle winner at No. 1 Gilmer County, 7 p.m.

South Harrison/Notre Dame winner vs. Trinity/Clay-Battelle winner at highest seed, 7 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 27

Championship at highest seed, 7 p.m.

Class A, Region II, Section 2

Saturday, Feb. 22

No. 7 Paw Paw at No. 2 Moorefield, 7 p.m.

No. 6 Harman at No. 3 Pendleton County, 7 p.m.

No. 5 East Hardy at No. 4 Union, 7 p.m.

Tuesday, Feb. 25

East Hardy/Union winner at No. 1 Tucker County, 7 p.m.

Paw Paw/Moorefield winner vs. Harman/Pendleton County winner at highest seed, 7 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 27

Championship at Petersburg High School, 7 p.m.

 

Class A, Region III, Section 1

Monday, Feb. 24

No. 5 Richwood vs. No. 4 Webster County

Wednesday, Feb. 26

No. 3 Charleston Catholic vs. No. 2 Midland Trail

Richwood/Webster County winner vs. No. 1 Pocahontas County

Friday, Feb. 28

Championship at highest seeded team

Class A, Region III, Section 2

Tuesday, Feb. 25

No. 5 Meadow Bridge vs. No. 4 Montcalm, 7 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 27

No. 3 Greater Beckley Christian winner vs. No. 2 Greenbrier West, 7 p.m.

Meadow Bridge/Montcalm winner vs. No. 1 Summers County, 7 p.m.

Friday, Feb. 28

Championship at highest seed, 7 p.m.

 

Class A, Region IV, Section 1

Friday, Feb. 21

No. 6 Wirt County vs. No. 3 Williamstown

No. 5 Ravenswood vs. No. 4 Wahama

Wirt County/Williamstown winner vs. No. 2 Calhoun County

Ravenswood/Wahama winner vs. No. 1 Parkersburg Catholic

Class A, Region IV, Section 2

No. 7 Hannan vs. No. 2 Tug Valley

No. 6 Sherman vs. No. 3 Tolsia

No. 5 Buffalo vs. No. 4 Van

Hannan/Tug Valley winner vs. Sherman/Tolsia winner

Buffalo/Van winner vs. No. 1 Huntington St. Joseph’s

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House again considers tax breaks for aging, struggling coal-fired power plants

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The House of Delegates is again considering a tax break for struggling coal-fired power plants.

A bill that was passed out of the House Energy Committee on Tuesday afternoon serves as a sequel. Last summer, the Legislature passed a bill aimed specifically at providing relief for financially-troubled Pleasants Power Station.

This bill would affect plants beyond that, particularly the Mount Storm Generating Station, operated by Dominion Energy in Grant County. It’s possible the bill could affect the Longview Power Plant near Morgantown.

The tax cuts could amount to about $16 million, state Deputy Revenue Secretary Mark Muchow told members of the energy committee.

That’s a tough ask in a flat budget year, but those who support the bill say it’s money the state would never see if power plants go bust.

Last summer, analysts at Moody’s predicted that use of thermal coal for U.S. power generation could fall to as little as 11 percent by 2030. That’s largely because as aging coal-fired plants go offline they are being replaced by natural gas-fired plants.

“Most of the coal plants now are not operating at full capacity, yet they are being taxed as if they are at full capacity,” said House Education Chairman Bill Anderson, R-Wood.

Under the bill being considered, those plants would be taxed at a rate of 45 percent of their capacity.

“That puts everyone on the same playing field, and it’s the reality of the state of coal-fired generation in the state today,” Anderson said. “It’s an attempt to provide relief to these plants that employ thousands of West Virginians and to allow them to continue.”

Chris Hamilton, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, said the potential relief is welcome.

“We fully embrace this concept, this action,” Hamilton said in the hallway after the House Energy meeting. “I believe in the case of Mount Storm, they have lost money four out of the last five years and by shaving off a little bit of their B&O tax it will allow that plant to run efficiently, productively for a greater period of time.”

In exchange, Hamilton said, the plant’s owner has agreed to keep the plant open at least another four or five years.

“So we’re fully supportive,” Hamilton said. “It’s very consistent with our primary objective, trying to extend the life of these plants, trying to extend the reliance on coal-fired electricity.”

The bill now goes to the House Finance Committee. It was passed out unanimously by the House Energy Committee.

Delegate Evan Hansen, D-Monongalia, was one of those who voted in favor of the bill. He said he doesn’t object to efforts to extend the lives of coal-fired power plants, potentially staving off an economic crash.

That’s particularly so, Hansen said, if the Legislature is also more willing to embrace alternative energy and efforts to diversify the state’s economy. He said that willingness has been apparent to him this year.

“This is one of the biggest challenges we’re facing in West Virginia, is how to address that decline in not just coal mining but coal-fired power,” he said.

“It’s having a huge effect on the state budget; it’s having a huge impact on jobs, local communities. It’s one of the biggest challenges we’ll have.”

He concluded, “Tax breaks like this might help in the short term, but they’re not going to change the long-term trend.”



Coal Fired Plant Tax Bill (Text)

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